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Friday, May 20, 2022

More commuter chaos in Oslo

This time it was the metro system known as T-bane that caused disruption and delays for tens of thousands of commuters in Oslo Monday morning, after weekend maintenance projects in the tunnel running under downtown weren’t carried out as expected. Concerns were high that chaos will continue throughout the summer.

Oslo's T-bane system has new carriages and is popular, when it runs on time. PHOTO: Views and News

It’s usually train system officials who are left apologizing for delays and cancellations, but now it was the T-bane bosses’ turn to admit “poor workmanship” and the wrong choice of materials on work undertaken in the tunnel. They told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Monday morning that workers used a form of concrete that took much longer to set than expected. Even though they discovered the problem, they still poured concrete late Sunday, meaning it wasn’t dry or set and the trains couldn’t start running as scheduled early Monday morning.

T-bane Director Øystein Svendsen said it was unlikely the tunnel between the important Majorstuen and Stortinget stations would be able to re-open on Monday, meaning commuters also faced major challenges during the afternoon rush. Svendsen said that while T-bane operated “bus for rail” service during the weekend, it wasn’t possible to offer so much alternative bus transport on such short notice.

Line 1 was thus only operating between Frognerseteren and Majorstuen. Line 2 could only run between its end station at Østerås in Bærum and Majorstuen, and Line 3 only between its end station at Sognsvann and Majorstuen. Line 6 would only run between Jar in Bærum and Smestad. Passengers needing to continue into the city had to find other modes of transport, which were quickly over capacity. Lines from the east had to turn around at the Storting station.

Svendsen apologized for the disruption but couldn’t guarantee it wouldn’t happen again. The tunnel under downtown Oslo is scheduled to be closed every weekend through the summer, for the maintenance project.

Doubts over major expansion plans
There are big plans for a major upgrading of Oslo’s popular and highly used T-bane system, including construction of a new tunnel through Oslo, new lines to Bygdøy, Fornebu and maybe even under the fjord to Nesodden, and extended lines to Lillestrøm in the northeast and Bjørndal and Stensrud in the southeast.

But politicians’ penchant for seemingly endless discussion and an alleged lack of funding raise doubts over the T-bane officials’ ambitions. Confidence among passengers is not high after the T-bane shut down the highly popular and long-time line to Kolsås in western Bærum several years ago and still haven’t managed to re-open it. Many feel that if T-bane can’t even get that line running again, it’s questionable whether the other projects are realistic.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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